Genesis 16:5 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Genesis 16:5, NIV: "Then Sarai said to Abram, 'You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the LORD judge between you and me.'"

Genesis 16:5, ESV: "And Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done to me be on you! I gave my servant to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt. May the LORD judge between you and me!”"

Genesis 16:5, KJV: "And Sarai said unto Abram, My wrong be upon thee: I have given my maid into thy bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes: the LORD judge between me and thee."

Genesis 16:5, NASB: "So Sarai said to Abram, 'May the wrong done to me be upon you! I put my slave woman into your arms, but when she saw that she had conceived, I was insignificant in her sight. May the LORD judge between you and me.'"

Genesis 16:5, NLT: "Then Sarai said to Abram, 'This is all your fault! I put my servant into your arms, but now that she's pregnant she treats me with contempt. The LORD will show who's wrong--you or me!'"

Genesis 16:5, CSB: "Then Sarai said to Abram, "You are responsible for my suffering! I put my slave in your arms, and when she saw that she was pregnant, I became contemptible to her. May the LORD judge between me and you.""

What does Genesis 16:5 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

The plan to "help" God fulfill His promises by giving Hagar to Abram was Sarai's idea in the first place. A decade before (Genesis 16:3), God's had once again promised to make Abram a great nation. This specifically included giving Abram a biological son (Genesis 15:4). For all of this time, Abram has chosen not to speed up God's timetable by marrying other wives. He has been waiting for God to fulfill the promise through Sarai, who was barren. Sarai thought the time had come to follow the custom of the day and marry her own servant to Abram to produce an heir. By that same custom, any heir would belong to Sarai as the "owner" of Hagar, her slave girl.

What Sarai seems to have failed to anticipate was Hagar growing contemptuous of her. Perhaps with good reason, Hagar would not relish the idea of giving up her child to Sarai and remaining the servant. She was Abram's wife, too, after all. Also, in that culture a woman's fertility was seen as a sign of her worth. So, Hagar's ability to conceive immediately for Abram, when Sarai had been childless for decades, could have been a source of pride or contempt for Hagar. Regardless of the reasons, or how Hagar might have acted, this contempt was not lost on Sarai.

Wounded by Hagar's attitude, Sarai complains to Abram. Her speech suggests she held him responsible for what had happened. In truth, though the plan was Sarai's idea (Genesis 16:2), Abram was responsible. He approved of the plan, he allowed it to happen, and he followed through with it. It was his responsibility to declare whether or not Sarai retained her authority over Hagar.

It's interesting to note that Sarai invokes the Lord's name in her angry plea to Abram. She calls on God to be the ultimate judge in this matter, going over Abram's head, in a sense. That was enough for Abram, as the next verse will reveal.